Yowies, soaps and erasers: what makes this junk valuable

TUCKED away in suburban homes, stacked on garage shelves and busting from china cabinets are the secret collections of thousands of pieces of junk worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

They are the toil of obsessive collectors - people who dedicate their weekends to finding the bride in the bride and groom salt and pepper shaker set, cracking open Yowie chocolates in the hopes of uncovering an extinct koala and trolling garage sales for junk that could complete their collection.

They're not crazy, but part of elusive group of people who live on the thrill of finding something rare and know the value of a complete set of literally anything.


Joyce and Allan Lawson have been collecting salt and pepper shakers from all over Australia for over 30 years.
Joyce and Allan Lawson have been collecting salt and pepper shakers from all over Australia for over 30 years. Kevin Farmer

Erasers, barbed wire, rum bottles, soaps, dingo traps and insulate phone lines are some of the more common fascinations.

Allan and Joyce Lawson are collecting addicts and they've seen it all, including their fare share of odd collections in their 29 years in the industry.

The regional antique fair organisers have the art down to such a fine form they managed to fund four holidays on the proceeds of a salt and pepper shaker collection.

The Lawsons spent a three decades finding 3000 sets of the kitchen utensil and sold them for up to $900 a pair.

"I had the groom shaker and I carried him around in my bag until I found the bride at a garage sale for 20c. It took me four years but one day I found her," Mrs Lawson said.

"There are a few I won't part with so I still have them.

"I just get fascinated with them, there are so many different styles and designs. After salt and pepper shakers I did egg cups and then serviette rings. People just collect all sorts of things."

Mr Lawson spends his weekends surrounded by tables lined with antiques, collectables and quirky kick knacks at antique fairs throughout the Ipswich and Toowooba regions.

"Collections could literally be anything, there is no rhyme or reason, it just has to be something that they fancy," he said.

"If it appeals to them, they go for it. I guess it's just the thrill of finding something unusual.

"It's hard to know the rarity of something, I've been doing it for 29 years and I can't figure it out sometimes. Something that is popular this week or this year might not be in favour next year."

What makes a collector tick: the psychology of collecting

COLLECTING is more than expensive works of art or historical artifacts that are later sold to a museum.

For many people who build collections, the value of their collections are not monetary but emotional and often, not for sale.

Collections allow people to relive their childhoods, to connect themselves to a period in history or to a time they feel strongly about. Their collections may help them to ease insecurity and anxiety about losing a part of themselves, and to keep the past present. Some collect for the thrill of the hunt. Collecting is much like a quest, a lifelong pursuit which can never be complete.

Collecting may provide psychological security by filling a part of the self one feels is missing or is void of meaning.

When one collects, one experiments with arranging, organizing, and presenting a part of the world which may serve to provide a safety zone, a place of refuge where fears are calmed and insecurity is managed.

Motives are not mutually exclusive; rather, different motives combine in each collector for a multitude of reasons.

Yowies return to their natural habit on Australian grocery store shelves

AUSTRALIAN kids smashed more than a million Yowies a week at the height of their popularity in the early 2000s before the favourite became extinct from Australian shelves.

The Cadbury and Kidcorp phenomenon was launched in 1995 and after disappearing for more than 10 years, Rumble, Crag, Boof, Nap, Ditty and Squish are back - but they're not the same.

Cadbury passed the icon onto US company Yowie Group which debuted the chocolate in the US in 2014 before returning them to their natural habitat in Australia earlier this year.

The little animal puzzle that captivated children and collectors, racking in $1 million in sales every year, has been replaced with a plastic figurine.

Australia's nostalgia for traditional Yowies is not quite satisfied with their predecessors but the change means the old version has suddenly become quite lucrative.

Full collections of the first three series sell online for hundreds of dollars as collectors snap up rare gems (or koalas) that are no longer in production.

A past Ipswich Yowie collector didn't want to be identified as she had a valuable collection for sale but she said a full Yowie collection was worth more than most people might think.

"They're quite valuable but nobody wants to pay what they're worth," she said.

"We stopped after we had three full sets because it gets out of hand and gets quite expensive."

Ipswich Antique and Collectables Fair organiser Allan Lawson said Yowies were popular as they hit the international market.

"Things take off overseas and then they hit Australian shores and investors snap them up," Mr Lawson said.

Get involved:

  • Ipswich Antique Fair is on Saturday August 18 at the Exhibit Pavilion (behind Indoor Sports Centre), Ipswich Showgrounds, 81 Warwick Rd, Ipswich.
  • The Toowoomba Fair is on September 16 to 17 at Toowoomba Showground Founders Pavilion, Toowoomba.

Topics:  antiques and collectables editors picks ipswich antique fair yowie

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